PLEDGE NOW
‘Jefferson’s Qu’ran’ And Islam In America

How a founding father, Thomas Jefferson, came to understand Islam.

On President Thomas Jefferson's gravestone in Virginia, his promotion of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom was one of the three things he was most proud of. (Creative Commons)

On President Thomas Jefferson’s gravestone in Virginia, his promotion of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom was one of the three things he was most proud of. (Creative Commons)

Back in the founding days of this nation, ideas were big.  The rights of Man.  Democracy, and citizenship.  And of course, freedom of religion.  But the religious debates were mostly among Protestants.  Catholics and Jews were the outliers.  Muslims?  Well they were beyond the pale.  The Ottoman, the Barbary pirate.  And, lest we forget, the American slave.  But a new book says Thomas Jefferson thought about Islam and could see a day when Muslims would be a part of the fabric of American democracy.  This hour On Point:  Thomas Jefferson, his Koran and Islam in American history.

Guests

Denise Spellberg, professor of history and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Author of “Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam And The Founders.”

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Minnesota’s Fifth District. First Muslim to be elected to the U.S. Congress. (@KeithEllison)

From The Reading List

San Francisco Chronicle: ‘Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an,’ by Denise Spellberg — “One of the strangest symptoms of our diseased political culture is the stubborn belief of some, despite all the contrary evidence, that President Obama is a Muslim. Slander and calumny are hardly new features of American politics. Usually it takes the form of an accusation that so-and-so is a socialist, or even a ‘commie’ – another fervid charge frequently leveled at our current president. But as it turns out, the accusation that he is a Muslim is a quality that Obama shares with one of his most illustrious predecessors, Thomas Jefferson.”

The Daily Beast: How Islam Shaped the Founders — “Thomas Jefferson, a central figure in Spellberg’s book, had a strong, lifelong commitment to religious liberty. Jefferson rejected toleration, the alternative perspective and one embraced by John Locke and John Adams, as grounded on the idea that a religious majority has a right to impose its will on a religious minority, but chooses to be tolerant for reasons of benevolence. Religious liberty, Jefferson argued, denies the majority any right to coerce a dissenting minority, even one hostile to religion. Jefferson rejected using government power to coerce religious belief and practice because it would create a nation of tyrants and hypocrites, as it is impossible to force someone to believe against the promptings of his conscience.”

New York Times: People Of the Book – “Jefferson, studying law at the College of William and Mary, acquired an English translation of Islam’s sacred text. He never claimed that the Quran shaped his political orientation. Yet Spellberg, an associate professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Texas at Austin, makes a persuasive case for its centrality. To oversimplify: What began as an academic interest in Islamic law and religion yielded a fascination with Islamic culture, which disposed him to include Muslims in his expansive vision of American citizenship.”

Read An Excerpt Of “Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam And The Founders” by Denise Spellberg

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
May 5, 2015
raqi security forces and allied Shiite militiamen prepare to attack Islamic State extremists in Tikrit, 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, March 31, 2015.  (AP)

Fresh upheaval in Iraq. Millions now displaced. Warnings of crisis and worse to come.

May 5, 2015
One of the main characters in Anthony Doerr's "All the Light We Cannot See" spends part of her childhood in the Paris Museum of Natural History (WikiCommons)

Anthony Doerr just won the Pulitzer Prize for his bestselling book “All the Light We Cannot See.” He joins us.

RECENT
SHOWS
May 4, 2015
In this March 26, 2015 photo, Yvonne DeCory, a suicide-prevention outreach worker, stands in her small office in the basement of the Post Office in Pine Ridge, S.D. Nearly 1,000 suicide attempts were recorded on the reservation between 2004 and 2013. DeCory said few weeks go by with a suicide. (AP)

After clusters of high school suicides in California, Virginia, and Massachusetts, we look at the pressure parents put on teenagers to succeed.

 
May 4, 2015
Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore state's attorney, speaks during a media availability, Friday, May 1, 2015 in Baltimore. Mosby announced criminal charges against all six officers suspended after Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody. (AP)

Second degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, assault and more. We’ll look at the charges announced for six Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: May 01, 2015
Friday, May 1, 2015

What happens when we change show topics last minute, and also what happens when a New York Times headline seems to accuse Kristie Alley of being responsible for the infamous George Washington Bridge lane closures.

More »
4 Comments
 
How To Help The Survivors Of Nepal’s Devastating Earthquake
Friday, May 1, 2015

Where and how to contribute aid to the relief effort in Nepal.

More »
5 Comments
 
Your Favorite Musical Memories Of Rain
Wednesday, Apr 22, 2015

When we say ‘rain,’ you say ‘…?’ (Here’s what you really said when we said ‘rain.’)

More »
6 Comments